Engaging with people, whether it be a consumer or legislator, can be a daunting task for many farmers, especially those who are young in their farming career. That’s why Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation hosted more than 300 members from across the state at The Peabody Hotel in Memphis for the Young Farmers & Ranchers 2019 Leadership Conference in February.

The theme of the conference, “Farm Forward, engage now” challenged attendees to step outside of their comfort zones to engage with consumers and their elected officials, as well as other Farm Bureau members.

“We planned this conference to encourage our YF&R members to take on new leadership positions and engage with other people outside of their farms,” MFBF President Mike McCormick says. “This group of farmers are our future, and it’s increasingly important that we invest in them and give them the tools to be successful.”

Highlights of the conference included presentations from former U.S. Congressman Gregg Harper, logger and co-owner of Environomics Public Relations Bruce Vincent and Senior Vice President of Forbes Tate Partners Tiffany Adams, a comedian hypnotist and a social at the BB King’s Blues Club.

Members also had the opportunity to hear from speakers who specialize in certain areas of agriculture by participating in breakout sessions. Mississippi State University Rice Specialist Dr. Bobby Golden shared about barriers to high row crop yields, while Mississippi State University Animal and Dairy Science Department Head Dr. John Blanton discussed emerging issues in livestock production. In addition, American Farm Bureau Federation Director of Media and Advocacy Training Johnna Miller gave members some effective communications strategies for agriculture advocacy.

“We had a wonderful group of speakers who gave us some important issues to think about and take home,” MFBF YF&R Chairman Taylor Hickman says. “We’ve got to take their messages back to our counties and farms, and start applying it.”

David and Rebekkah Arant, MFBF’s 2017 Achievement Award winners, agreed with Hickman, saying becoming involved in YF&R broadened their horizons.

“The program allows you to travel across Mississippi and the country to meet other farmers, learn new techniques and technology, and educate the public on what we do,” David says.

“By participating in the events and competitions YF&R offers, we’ve learned to be effective advocates for agriculture and to speak knowledgably about tough subjects to our state and country decision makers,” Rebekkah adds.

The couple highly encourages other young farmers to participate in the YF&R program.

“Sometimes we’ve got to get out of our fence rows to realize that outside of our farm, very few people know what we do,” Hickman said. “It’s our job to tell them. I think by participating in this conference and the YF&R program, members receive great advice on how to do that.”